Transport for London using wi-fi network to provide real-time Tube occupancy information

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Public transport users in London can now get a real-time picture of how busy the Underground network is thanks to a new feature on a Transport for London (TfL) app which uses wi-fi signals in Tube stations to assess passenger numbers.

TfL has updated its free TfL Go travel app to help customers choose quieter times to travel around the city and will further help build confidence as more people continue to return to public transport.

The innovative update, available on both the iOS and Android versions of the app, uses aggregated and depersonalised data from TfL’s wi-fi network to provide customers with real-time information on how busy Tube stations are at any particular point of the day.

Historically, TfL has used ticketing data to understand travel patterns on the network, with quiet times data in TfL Go based largely on data from TfL’s Oyster and contactless ticketing system which records entry and exits at stations. This innovative update now allows TfL to factor in how busy platforms and interchange points are to overall crowding within a station.

Launched in 2020, TfL Go provides real-time train times and information in a mobile-friendly way to enable customers travelling on Tube, bus and rail services across London, including the quieter times to travel. It also suggests alternative routes and walking and cycling options. The app has regularly updated accessibility information available through a ‘step-free’ mode which provides an easy to navigate view of all stations that are step-free to platform or train.

The app was designed and built in-house by TfL and uses the open data feeds freely provided to third party app developers and others, including the latest ‘real-time’ data showing the relative busyness of stations. The app has been downloaded more than 250,000 times with numbers set to increase as more people continue to return to public transport and Central London following the pandemic.

“We are proud to be able to bring this latest update to our TfL Go app and help make it easier for people to find out in real-time how busy our stations are and to see the quieter times to travel,” says Ben Gammon, head of digital at TfL. “By providing up-to-date information on their journeys, as well as detailed accessibility information, we can help make it easier for customers to move around the city as more people return to public transport.”

A near-normal level of service continues to operate across the TfL public transport network and a wide range of active travel options are available, including Santander Cycles and protected cycling and walking routes, especially in central London and the West End.

More than 1,100 hand sanitisers are installed across the network, and 200 UV light devices are continually sanitising escalator handrails. The transport network is also well ventilated with train and bus doors opening frequently to ensure a regular exchange of air across the public transport network, while the constant movement of trains draws fresh air into the system.

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About Author

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).